2018-2019 CC

June 2019

With today as the last day of this school year, many of us are looking forward to the summer months.  As parents we may reflect on our childhood summers with nostalgia.  And maybe even ask ourselves – what do our children’s summers look like?

I recently read a post “Making Childhood Health Again” by Julie Lythcott-Haims.  While there is mention of high school and college, the heart of her message applies to students of all ages.  She references the PDF mantra from Challenge Success: Playtime. Downtime. Family time.  (A message I mentioned in my first Counselor Connection in September 2016!)  Her elaboration on playtime stuck with me –

Playtime may be the hardest to come by. According to psychologist Peter Gray, free play is essential because it’s when children learn how to interact with others, develop creativity and imagination, strengthen their bodies and process what they have learned. But instead of letting kids play freely, these days we put them in cages of enrichment, where every hour outside of school is attended by adults and geared toward yielding tangible benefits for their future. The superintendent in Wilton, Conn., Kevin Smith, recently created a Free Play Matters Task Force to restore free play in the community….If you’re ready to get started, consider Gray’s advice: “You want to know what free play is? If there’s an adult present, that’s not it.”

Her post reminded me of a blog (on Scary Mommy) I had read a while ago “12 Old-School Ways I Parent My Kids”. Even though number one might be a bit jarring, I found her list to be pretty solid. 

  1. I don’t play with my kids
  2. We don’t shield our kids from making mistakes
  3. They have chores
  4. We aren’t their friends
  5. No quitting
  6. Accepting responsibility for your actions
  7. Consistently follow through
  8. Encourage their independence
  9. I don’t get involved in arguments
  10. We respect our elders (and everyone else)
  11. Respect family time
  12. Instill the importance of hard work

I hope everyone has a summer break filled with family, friends, and fun experiences.  And to our families who spent their last year at Stepney – wonderful wishes for your next journey.

April 2019

Today starts the beginning of a 10 day break for our students.
  Breaks are a great way for students to rest, recharge, spend time with their family and enjoy the nicer (fingers crossed!) weather.  However, all of this “downtime” will likely result in more screen time as well.  And truth be told – for my daughters too. 

In 2017 three fathers in the UK created National Online Safety to provide resources and training to parents (and therefore, children) about online safety.  I’ve reviewed some of the guides and found them quite informative especially as many of these games and apps are new to me.  I’ve selected five to share but there are over thirty on the website.  The links listed below will take you to each specific page and from there you can download a one-page tip sheet.

Fortnite Battle Royale





I wish all of you and your children a wonderful break!

March 2019

As parents we’re all faced with having conversations with our children about complicated topics – death being one of the most difficult.  In my counselor role I’ve spoken with many Stepney students and as a parent with my preschool daughter who lost her grandmother, dog, and cat within a year.  Children process death and grief differently than adults.  Their questions can come when you least expect it or every night at bedtime.  As they get older, their understanding of death changes and therefore, their questions do too.  (As a side, watching Disney’s Coco will likely increase their questions.)

I recently read an NPR article “The Dog Isn’t Sleeping: How to Talk with Children about Death” that I felt offered some great insight and tips regarding these emotional situations.

  1. Be honest and concrete.
  2. Take it slowly.
  3. It takes a village.
  4. Grown-ups, it’s OK to cry.
  5. The funeral rule.
  6. Keep the hope alive.

The article heavily references a landmark Sesame Street episode “Farewell, Mr. Hooper” that aired on Thanksgiving Day 1983.  If you’d like to view the episode and relevant segments, it can be found on YouTube (click here) specifically minutes 43-49 and 52-53.

I was struggling with how to close this message and then a fitting quote came to me –

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love.  It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot.  All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ~ Jamie Anderson

February 2019

We’ve all heard the phrases – helicopter parent, tiger mom, lawnmower parent – and seen the attention grabbing headlines including this recent opinion piece in the New York Times “The Bad News About Helicopter Parenting: It Works”.  But when you read the article, and understand the details, the headline isn’t entirely accurate.

Take this paragraph that references research in a new book Love, Money, and Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids.  The most effective parents, according to the authors, are “authoritative.” They use reasoning to persuade kids to do things that are good for them. Instead of strict obedience, they emphasize adaptability, problem-solving and independence — skills that will help their offspring in future workplaces that we can’t even imagine yet.”

The authoritative reference brought me back to my college child psychology class where we learned about four parenting approaches with respect to levels of responsiveness/support and expectations/control. 



High ← Expectations/Control → Low



















While there is no single best way to parent, it is helpful to stop and think about how we’re doing.  We all know parenting can be challenging – some times more than others – and we’re all striving to make the best decisions for and with our kids.

January 2019

I hope this message finds you well and having a good start to 2019!  Often with the start of a new year come new goals whether professional, personal or parental.  Recently I read a post by Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and best-selling author of How to Raise an Adult, where she shares her “Four…Three…Two…One…Go!” parenting tip.

Four – steps to teaching a skill

Three – things to stop doing

Two – hallmarks of parenting

One – relationship improving technique

I hope that you visit her site (click here) to read these strategies in detail.  (Unfortunately, there was not a way for me to share without plagiarizing.)

December 2018

I wanted this month’s edition to fit the time of year – a time of giving, of reflection and of hope for the year to come.  As I pondered what to write, I learned about the passing of our 41st president and found myself immersed in the news coverage.  Politics aside, George H.W. Bush served our country throughout his life and remained true to what was most important to him – his family.

In an interview Laura Bush said, “A lot of the special times are around the dinner table…the laughs around the table and that is certainly how he grew up…with everybody at the table and everyone talking and everyone laughing during those meals – they were so much fun.”  (Click here to view a one-minute video of Madeline Levine, Ph.D. of Challenge Success talk about the importance of family dinner.)

And in a poignant tribute, Jenna Bush Hager remembered her grandfather in “A Love Letter to Gampy.” This television special featured a letter written on April 23, 2003 by our late president who shared his advice to young people:

  • Don’t get down when your life takes a bad turn – out of adversity comes challenge and often success.
  • Don’t blame others for your setbacks.
  • When things go well, always give credit to others.
  • Don’t talk all the time – listen to your friends and mentors, and learn from them.
  • Don’t brag about yourself – let others point out your virtues, your strong points.
  • Give someone else a hand – when a friend is hurting, show that friend you care.
  • Nobody likes an overbearing big shot.
  • As you succeed be kind to people – thank those who help you along the way.
  • Don’t be afraid to shed a tear when your heart is broken because a friend is hurting.

 I wish all of you time spent with those you love and a wonderful start to 2019!

November 2018

Cell Phones – good or bad?  I, as well as many others, could argue both sides of the coin regarding children and access cell phones.  And I said children on purpose – because our Stepney students are children.

There is a national campaign, Wait Until 8th, which empowers parents to wait until at least 8th grade to give their children a smartphone.  (This does not refer to all cell phones, only smartphones.)

I encourage you to visit the website (click here), read through the material, and consider making the pledge for your child or children.  Once ten students/families within a grade have committed, the pledge becomes active, giving parents and students community support.

The long and short of it is – technology is here to stay; and teaching our children how and when to use it responsibly is more important than ever.

I will be at conferences on Thursday, November 29th and Friday, November 30th to talk with interested parents and collect signatures for Wait Until 8th.  I have spoken with a few families already and have at least one student/family in each grade committed to the pledge.

Two recent articles that might also be of interest are:
New York Times (Oct 26) - “A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley”
Penn Today (Nov 9) - “Social media use increases depression and loneliness”

October 2018

We’re now almost two months into the school year which means we’re about a month away from report cards.  The feedback from your child’s teacher is invaluable as it provides you, as parents, a window into your child’s progress.  But it’s also important to think outside of the report-card-box with regard to success, motivation and expectations.

A recent piece on Psychology Today talks about ways to promote school success. I encourage you to read the article “10 Messages That Matter More Than a Report Card” and think about the essence, not specifics, of the what the author is sharing.  A few highlights to pique your interest:

“One of the greatest ways parents nurture success at school is to walk alongside as opposed to doing for a child. The first relies on love, respect, and encouragement.”

7. “Thank you for your kindness; what you did was very generous and caring.” [Statements that let kids know that you appreciate the small, thoughtful things they do for you and others encourages the development of empathy and compassion.]

8. “I appreciate what a good listener you are.” [Statements that help children understand the importance of listening and good communication skills foster the development of emotional intelligence and sociability.]

"When parents praise children for their efforts rather than the end game, they instill a love of the learning process and reinforce the idea that success takes hard work and perseverance.” (This is Carol Dweck’s concept of “growth mindset” which I also shared in May 2017.)

September 2018

Somehow it’s almost October…where did September go?!  It was wonderful to see so many of you at Back to School Night.  I hope you found the tips card interesting, if not helpful.  (A copy of the card is attached for those of you who were unable to attend.)
This year my monthly emails will have a new component – a listing of the classroom lessons that are upcoming and recently past.  While I encourage students to share my lesson at that night’s dinner table, I am aware that might not happen; I hope that providing this information will keep us all more connected.

As I was driving home from school listening to the radio, I heard the quote “prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.”  It stayed with me so much that I tried to find the original source.  While my googling proved unsuccessful, I did stumble upon a “favorite parenting phrases” web section (click here) of a child development and behavior specialist, Betsy Brown Braun.  A few that stuck out were:

  • What goes in their ears goes out their mouths.
  • All behavior is motivated.
  • What you ignore, you permit.
  •  “Do not lose sight of the fact that the most important door that a child walks through for his education is the front door.”

 Here’s to a great 2018-2019 school year!